Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010



Sad news out of Tokyo this week. After over thirty years of production, the SONY CASSETTE WALKMAN will no longer be manufactured. One of the most iconic devises ever produced, the Walkman was one of the more successful as well. Sony estimates some 200 million were sold all over the world during the last three decades. Sales hit an all-time high in 1984 when it was prominently featured in the movie Back to the Future. (Remember when McFly listened to it while skateboarding?) Anyhow, old school folks from around the world let out a collective sigh. After all, 2010 is a big year for Sony to be retiring treasured tech items. Earlier this year, the FLOPPY DISC was also laid to rest. What is happening to this world?

Techies everywhere were not the least bit surprised. To them, the Walkman's retirement was long overdue. First, no one listens to cassette tapes anymore. To them, tapes were already replaced twenty years ago by CDs. True, by 1990, portable CD players had pushed the Walkman lower on the shelves of Radio Shack. In the year 2000, i-pods and mp3 players were released. They were one twentieth the size of the Walkman yet could hold 100 times more music. Why would anyone carry around a half-pound tape player? Well, despite these advances in technology, still, many die-hard fans didn't care about the number of songs per ounce and continued to lug around their favorite toy.

Why did so many cling to their Walkmans? Well, let's go back to 1979, the initial year of the Walkman's release. It didn't sell very well at first--a mere 3,000 sold in the first month--but soon became the most sought-after device on the cool parts of planet earth. Prior to the walkman, recorded music was only enjoyed at home. People would buy LP records at the store and take them home. Everyone had large stereos with fancy turntables. Folks would play recorded music through speakers or large headphones and listen in the living room. Radios, on the other hand, were portable, but when it came to listening to what YOU wanted to hear, you were stuck at home.

The Walkman (originally called the SOUND-ABOUT...that didn't last long!) changed the way everyone listened to music. Now your living room was everywhere. You could take your Led Zeppelin album with you to the park, mall, on the bus...you were never without your music. This phenomeon, started by the little walkman, has turned into a global trend. Now it's weird to see someone who doesn't have a headphones in their ears...or worse yet...that stupid Star Trek toy: The dreaded BLUETOOTH! Thanks a lot AKIO MORITA and MASARU IBUKA! Our streets will never be quiet again!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010



Move over China, the USA has a new best friend. We love India now! What began as mere flirting has suddenly become an official romance. Yesterday, US President BARACK OBAMA and Indian Prime Minister MANMOHAN SINGH embraced on a podium in New Delhi. Their love will no longer be hidden, with shady corporate deals made in dive bars and cheap motels. Nope, as of today, they are in officially in love. And haven't you heard...how they rock each other's worlds? (Did anyone get my AVRIL LAVIGNE song reference? I hope not).

Anyhow, in a state visit to the Indian capital, Obama got a little carried away. In the THREE DAY whirlwind romance, Barack hugged the Prime Minister and then spoke to Parliament. He told them: "I want every Indian citizen know: We will be right there with you, shoulder to shoulder, because we believe in the promise of India." (Wow! Does he realize there are a billion Indian citizens? That's a lot of shoulders!) Next, he'll be giving the other Pradeshis a little love. He'll go to Bangalore to visit a US owned company and dismiss all those 'Out-sorcing' claims. He'll go to Mumbai and denounce Islamic terrorism (always a good idea on Indian state visits.) And of course, he'll announce a lot of new trade deals. Talk about love!

But Obama's biggest bombshell on this visit involves an invitation. Barack wants INDIA on the UN Security Council. And not just in a rotating seat...No, Obama wants India to have a PERMANENT SEAT on the Security Council. This is really big news! Since the United Nations founding way back in 1945, there have been five..and only five...permanent seats on the top council. Naturally, given the date, these were the victors of World War II. Specifically the USA, USSR, UK, FRANCE and CHINA. There's been a name change or two, but these five have been in control of the UN for the past 65 years. They have veto power over another and never get anything done...but still...they are the five countries in charge. Period.

By officially backing India's bid to join the council, Barack has unleashed a Pandora's box. After all, he is proposing to re-write a world-wide constitution of nations that has been ratified by two hundred countries. Not surprisingly, a wave of jealously and fury has swept into the media around the world. It is especially angry in nations who dispute India's admission and their omission. (Come on...everyone wants to join the world's Big Boy Club and party like an international player!) Japan and Germany have the third and fourth largest economies...why aren't they in? Brazil is also mad...they're big and developing too! (I'm just curious...why does France get to KEEP their seat?) Big questions. No answers.

While it will likely take decades to change the UN Security Council, Obama is definitely giving India everything it could possibly hope for in a state visit: Trade Agreements, Photo Opportunities, Business Luncheons and Prime-Minister hugging. But don't be fooled by everything you see. As HARMEET pointed out, there is one group who is definitely not feeling the love: The SIKHS! Apparently, he had planned to visit the GOLDEN TEMPLE in the Punjab, but cancelled when he was informed he'd have to cover his head to enter. Worried about the triumphant TEA-PARTY at home, he figured he'd skip that one photo...after all, it would be the only photo most US newspapers would print anyhow.

Monday, November 1, 2010



Hey...didja hear about those San Francisco Giants? Yeah...they're about to win their first WORLD SERIES in 55 years? Of course you've heard! Well, it's everywhere in the news. Hey...didja hear about these nasty elections? Yeah...there's been more negative ads and speeches than a Klu Klux Klan meeting? Of course you've heard! It's everywhere in the news. Hey...didja hear about those vicious protests in Tibet? Yeah...the Chinese are at it again, beating up defenseless monks with batons again. Oh you MISSED THAT! Of course you did! It's no where in the news.

Sorry about the rant...this is MONDAY BOB after all...anyhow...here's what's happening in Tibet: The Han government in Beijing recently announced that the Tibetan language will no longer be taught in grammar schools in the 'autonomous' region of Tibet. Instead, all classes will be conducted solely in Mandarin. Currently, most elementary schools are conducted in Tibetan and High Schools are taught in Chinese. This makes sense since both languages are needed for adults to function in the region. Tibetan is the language of the people, while Chinese is the language of the government. But to eliminate the teaching of Tibetan at the age when language skills develop the most is an unsettling development in a long history of strife between China and Tibet. Thousands have taken to the streets in protest.

Did I say LONG HISTORY? Okay, I'll make it a SHORT HISTORY. Since the average elevation of Tibet is 16,000 feet (higher than any place in the 48 contiguous states), it has remained pretty isolated from the rest of the world. The only real colonization of the Tibetan people occurred two thousand years ago, when Buddhist monks first visited. Over time, a unique form of the religion evolved into a theocracy, which would be led by men called the DALLI LAMA. The only nation to ever try to conquer the 'rooftop of the world' was, of course, China. A peace treaty signed in 824 stayed largely in effect until 1900's, when a slow, methodical annexation began to take place. While the US was able to halt, or at least slow, Chinese military aims in Korea and Vietnam, Tibet was not so lucky and became part of the People's Republic.

But the recent action by Beijing has clearly gone too far, and the fragile relationship between the two immense cultures has once again become inflamed. “Language is the foundation of Tibetan culture and this recent attack reveals the Chinese governments’ sinister attempt to assimilate Tibetans into Chinese society,” said Tenzin Choedon, national director of Students for a Free Tibet. Indeed, this recent incursion is much less subtle than the last event, which involved the new, direct train service between Lhasa and the Western metropolises. Tibetans worried it would result in a flood of Chinese people, commerce and culture. Beijing replied that Tibet must be the only place in the world to protest government funded train service. We'll let this one play out some more.

Instead, let's get back to the schools. Tibetan is the language of preference for some eight million people. It's also one of the world's oldest known languages, with it's own unique alphabet, which was loosely borrowed from Sanskrit a couple thousand years ago. It was one of the first languages to employ rules of grammar, which impressed the British when they first arrived here 300 years ago. “It is the inalienable right of every Tibetan to learn in their own language. We call on governments around the world to press the Chinese government to respect Tibetan language rights,” said Tenzin Dorjee, executive director of Students for a Free Tibet. But, as usual, only RICHARD GERE and a handful of Berkeley hippies with "Free Tibet" bumper stickers will take notice.